The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Preview

The Wall Street Journal is the latest source to offer up a preview of the next highly anticipated installment to The Elder Scrolls franchise, Skyrim, although unfortunately it would appear that it's still based on the same demo that has been shown to the press so far and offers virtually no new information. Here's a sampling:
There are various moments in an Elder Scrolls game when the limits of technology challenge the game's ability to top the imaginative heights of a Tolkien-esque or tabletop fantasy. The game either passes the test or is exposed as a contorted body of illusions, like a marionette whose strings are prone to tangling. In Oblivion, you might mistake chatting townsfolk for a pair of tape recorders, or wince as a character runs stiffly away from you, inexplicably, his body popping up and down on little rocks as it slowly recedes. The technology on display in Bethesda's new Creation Engine is considerably more convincing, though it remains to be seen whether dueling dragons can feel much more dynamic, or naturalistic, than standing in place and mashing buttons.

But Skyrim is a subtle step forward in other ways. The demo still has bugs, but it feels aesthetically precise. An animation-blending system makes moving bodies look alive and muscular. A swung axe lands with a terrible, momentous thud on a troll's forehead. Magic powers pop and crackle, frightening and forceful like oil in a cauldron. The game's engine simulates weather and cloud movement, and one spell actually changes the weather as far as the camera can see, bringing down storm-clouds and rain and thunder on a now-harried dragon. And there are cinematic (kill moves,) in which the action slows down or the camera pulls back to show you finishing off a monster with a flourish.